2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Caeleb Dressel in His Comeback Era in the 100 Butterfly

2024 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS

MEN’S 100 BUTTERFLY — BY THE NUMBERS:

  • World Record: Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 49.45 (2021) 
  • American Record: Caeleb Dressel – 49.45 (2021) 
  • U.S. Open Record: Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 49.76 (2021; semifinals) 
  • World Junior Record: Kristof Milak (HUN) – 50.62 (2017)
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 49.45 (2021) 
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: Caeleb Dressel – 49.87
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 53.59
  • 2024 Olympic Qualifying Time: 51.67

IN HIS COMEBACK ERA

The defending Olympic champion and World Record holder Caeleb Dressel was off his game in 2023. Following an extended mental health break, Dressel began competing again in early 2023. At the 2023 U.S. World Championship Team Trials in Greensboro last April, Dressel tied for 5th in the 100 fly in a 51.66. Though more than two seconds off his lifetime best of 49.45 from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the recency of his return to the pool makes the 0.49 seconds he missed qualifying for the U.S Worlds Team by less worrisome.

But that may as well be ancient history.

In 2024, Dressel has been as fast as 50.84 in the 100 fly, though perhaps more impressively, at the Atlanta Classic in May, Dressel swam a 51.38 in the 100 fly, with a 26.15 split on the second 50.

Gone are the days of the Phelpsian 5-years-no-days-off training models. Phelps is himself a major mental health advocate who has been very open about his struggles with depression and anxiety, pressures that Dressel felt in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games as well as after into the following season of the International Swimming League, and beyond. Dressel seems in some ways to mirror Phelps’ 2016 return to glory in that be both missed the preceding year’s World Championships and became a father in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

This is so much philosophizing. Let me repeat a point: at the Atlanta Classic in May, Dressel swam a 51.38 in the 100 fly, with a 26.15 split on the second 50. This represents one of the fastest back-half splits of a 100 LCM butterfly ever. Furthermore, Dressel swam a 1:47.38 in the 200 freestyle earlier in the same session, marking the third-fastest 200 freestyle of his career. In the 200 free, Dressel split a 52.84 on the first 100 and a 54.54 on the second 100, making for just a 1.7 second split difference. Point is, Dressel is primed for the feat of endurance that is the Olympic Trials. His stamina appears to have returned; now the question is, will he be fully tapered in Indy, or will he hold back just a little on his taper for a grader performance in Paris?

In 2024, Dressel is the man to beat in the 100 fly on U.S. soil.

The Hunt for Second

Thomas Heilman may not have graduated high school yet, but in 2023 he graduated from junior competition when he qualified to swim both the 100 and 200 butterfly at the 2023 World Championships. Heilman has been on everyone’s radar for years and now is his big moment. So far in 2024, Heilman is swimming faster than he did at the same meets in 2023, having posted a 52.29 in May whereas he was a 52.71 at the same meet a year prior, which bodes well for his bid for a spot on Team USA for the Paris Olympics.

If Heilman qualifies for the Olympic team in the 200 fly on Wednesday, in which he is the top seed, the pressure of simply making the team will be alleviated and he will be able to focus exclusively on racing. Heilman was the fastest U.S. performer in the 200 fly in 2023, tying for fourth at the World Championships in Fukuoka with a 1:53.82, making him the fastest 18-and-under performer ever from the United States.

Heilman is the leading contender to make the US Olympic team in both butterfly events, and with senior level international experience now under his belt, his bid for second is as good as anyone’s.

Dare Rose won the 100 butterfly at the 2023 U.S. World Championships Trials and went on to win a bronze medal in the race at the big dance in Fukuoka, posting a blistering 50.46, making him the 5th-fastest male performer in U.S. history. At the time of this writing, Rose is the 13th-fastest man ever in the 100 fly with his performance in Fukuoka in 2023. In fact, the final of the 100 fly at this summer’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials is likely to include three of the top-15 performers of all time in the 100 fly, but we’ll get to the other one in a minute.

Rose represented Cal at the NCAA Championships in March, posting a 44.46 in the 100 yard fly and a 1:38.61 in the 200 fly, placing 8th and 2nd, respectively. These performances marked a 0.29 second and a 1.38 second time drop, respectively.

Shaine Casas was a favorite to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in the 100 backstroke, though after finishing third in Omaha, Casas has broadened his horizons to become a top contender in both the 100 fly and 200 IM. In the former, Casas has been as fast as 50.40 at the 2022 U.S. National Championships, easily winning the event and tying Ian Crocker as the 3rd-fastest U.S. performer all-time and the 10th-fastest performer all time. In major international competition, Casas competed in the 100 fly at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, though he failed to advance to the final. In addition to the 100 fly, where he is seeded 2nd, Casas will be taking on the 200 IM, 100 backstroke, and 100 freestyle at Trials. The 200 IM finals fall immediately before the 100 butterfly semifinals on Friday the 21st, though this is unlikely to impair his ability to snag a lane in the championship final of the 100 fly, especially if he gains an Olympic berth in the 200 IM.

Rounding out the already-50-point crew is 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medalist and World Record holder Michael Andrew. Famous for his USRPT style of training and for turning pro at 14-years-old, Andrew single-handedly rewrote the record books during his time as an age group swimmer. His ascension to senior level international competition was fulfilled when he won the gold medal at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in the 50 freestyle, beating the likes of Caeleb Dressel who only months earlier had one of the greatest NCAA seasons off all time. After 2018, Andrew climbed higher, qualifying for the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and finally, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he would place 4th in both the 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle, and 5th in the 200 IM. Andrew ended the meet with Team USA on the 400 medley relay where he alongside Ryan Murphy, Caeleb Dressel, and Zach Apple won the gold and set new World and Olympic Records.

ANDREW-Michael-
World Aquatics Championships – Doha 2024
02 – 18 Feb 2024
credit Fabio Cetti

While Andrew boasts one of the most impressive resumes of anyone in the field, he has had mixed results since 2021. In 2022, Andrew swam a full slate of five individual events at the World Championships in Budapest, bringing home individual silver in the 50 free, as well as two bronze medals from the 50 breast and 50 fly. Andrew only missed the podium in the 100 fly by 0.14, finishing in 4th. Following Caeleb Dressel‘s withdrawal from the meet, Andrew was called up to swim butterfly on the medley relay in the championship final, and while Team USA did not win gold, Andrew blasted a monstrous 50.06 butterfly split to propel the US to silver. Andrew missed making the 2023 US Worlds team, but bounced back in 2024, swimming all four of the 50s and earning a silver medal in the 50 fly in Doha.

In Indy, Andrew will take on the 100 breast, 200 IM, 100 fly, and 50 freestyle, which represents a potential of 12 individual swims as each race is held in the prelims/semifinals/finals format. Like Casas, Andrew will have to scramble from the final of the 200 IM to the semifinals of the 100 fly. However, in 2021, Andrew was originally entered in the 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly, 100 back, 100 breast, and 200 IM, though he would ultimately scratch the 100 free and 100 fly, bringing his itinerary down to four individual events and 12 swims. A mighty undertaking, though not the largest among the men on the pre-scratch psych sheet. Were Andrew to place first or second in the 100 butterfly at U.S. Trials he would be one of potentially three swimmers with multiple options for which leg of the relay they swim as Dressel will vie for a spot in the 100 freestyle while another individual Olympic gold medalist in a different 100 of stroke tests the waters in the 100 fly.

The Backstroker

Ryan Murphy enters the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials seeded first in both the 100 and 200 backstrokes as well as sixth in the 100 butterfly with a lifetime best of 51.35. Murphy’s highest priority is to qualify for his third Olympic Games in the 100 and 200 backstrokes where he won gold in both in 2016 in Rio as well as a bronze and a silver, respectively, in 2021 in Tokyo.

As long as Murphy makes the team in at least one of the two backstrokes, the 100 fly will be pure fun, should he follow through on swimming it. Both backstrokes come before the 100 fly with the 100 back final taking place on Monday the 17th and the 200 back final taking place Thursday the 20th, whereas the 100 fly prelims won’t kick off until the morning of Friday the 21st.

If Murphy were to qualify second (or first) with Dressel also qualifying, each would have a lock on two of the four legs of the medley relay, supposing Dressel also qualifies first or second in the 100 freestyle. If he were to qualify alongside Andrew, each would have a lock on two of the four legs of the medley relay, supposing Andrew also places top-2 in the 100 breaststroke. This does not happen often, though Claire Curzan made things interesting by placing top-2 in the 100 fly, 100 back, and 100 free at U.S. World Championship Trials in 2022, with Torri Huske also qualifying individually in both the 100 fly and 100 free. While it is unusual for these doubles to happen at such high levels, it makes for fun speculation.

Will Murphy pursue this event seriously at Olympic Trials? Hard to say. To draw some fun parallels, another backstroker, Aaron Piersol, placed 3rd in the 100 fly at the 2009 World Championship Trials. Not quite enough to make the team in the race but fast enough to raise eyebrows. In 2013, another backstroker, Ryan Lochte, qualified to swim the 100 fly at the World Championships in Barcelona, where he placed 5th, just 0.12 off the podium. In his other individual events, Lochte won golds in the 200 back and the 200 IM.

The 200 Fly Crew

Luca UrlandoZach Harting, and Trenton Julian have all represented the United States on the world stage in the 200 fly. Harting also recently represented Team USA in the 100 fly at the 2024 World Championships in Doha, placing 5th in 51.68. Harting, the 2021 Wave II Olympic Trials Champion in the 200 fly, placed sixth in the 100 fly at the Olympic Trials in 2021. Urlando, meanwhile, was once a favorite to make the 2020 Olympic team after having an incredible 2019, which included breaking Micheal Phelps’ 17-18 NAG Record in the 200 fly. However, in November of 2022, Urlando suffered a shoulder injury which resulted in him sitting out the 2022-2023 NCAA season. In 2023 Urlando made the move to train with the elite pro group at Arizona State University under the guidance of Bob Bowman and Herbie Behm, taking an Olympic redshirt for the 2023-2024 NCAA season. In 2021, Urlando placed 3rd in both the 100 and 200 butterfly at US Olympic Trials in Omaha, recording a time of 51.64 in the latter.

While the 100 fly is arguably Harting’s, Urlando’s and Julian’s second-best event–Urlando and Julian are also strong 200 freestylers, while Urlando is also the fastest-ever 100 backstroker in the short course yards format–none of the three have broken into 50-point territory yet, though Julian has been as fast a 51.10 at the 2022 U.S. World Championship Trials. In 2024, Julian has been 51.90 this season from the 2023 U.S. Open Championships in December.

NCAA Stars

Gabriel Jett tied for 5th with Dressel at the 2023 US World Trials with a 51.66 and is a strong contender for a spot in the championship final. If Jett can manage to drop another half-second he could find himself top-2 in the event, though the field is thick with 51-mids. Aiden Hayes placed 9th at the 2023 US Trials last April, though in July at the 2023 TYR Pro Championships Irvine last July he blasted a 51.24 which puts him in serious contention for an Olympic berth in 2024.

Luke Miller, Arsenio Bustos, and Jonny Kulow all represented the United States at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, each earning medals in individual events. Miller and Bustos, in particular, placed 1st and 3rd in the 100 butterfly in 51.98 and 52.60, respectively, in Santiago. Kulow, though better known as a sprint freestyler, has been as fast as 52.35 in the 100 fly, putting him in serious contention for a place in the championship final. Miller and Bustos, respectively, have lifetime bests of 51.84 and 52.07, both from the TYR Pro Championships in Irvine in July 2023.

2023-24 U.S. Rankings, Men’s 100 Butterfly (LCM)

  1. Caeleb Dressel, 50.84
  2. Shaine Casas, 51.03
  3. Michael Andrew, 51.66
  4. Zach Harting, 51.68
  5. Dare Rose, 51.72
  6. Trenton Julian, 51.90
  7. Luke Miller, 51.93
  8. Aiden Hayes, 52.10
  9. Thomas Heilman, 52.29
  10. Arsenio Bustos, 52.60

Team USA Olympic Trials Top-2 Finishes, 2004-2021

Since 2004, the top-2 finishers in the 100 butterfly have been no slower than 51.62–a mark that seems easily surpassable in 2024–though it is also noteworthy that three of those five Olympic cycles have seen the winner post a 50-point or faster while the runner-up posted a 51-something. This is interesting because, in the history of the United States Olympic Swimming Trials, no more than one man has ever swam faster than 51.00 seconds in the championship final. Will we finally see this trend bucked in 2024 with multiple men finishing in under 51 seconds?

Year 1st 2nd
2004 50.76 (Ian Crocker) 51.15 (Michael Phelps)
2008 50.89 (Michael Phelps) 51.62 (Ian Crocker)
2012 51.14 (Michael Phelps) 51.32 (Tyler McGill)
2016 51.00 (Michael Phelps) 51.20 (Tom Shields)
2021 49.87 (Caeleb Dressel) 51.19 (Tom Shields)

SwimSwam’s Picks–100 Butterfly, 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials

Place Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Caeleb Dressel 50.84 49.45
2 Thomas Heilman 52.29 51.19
3 Dare Rose 51.72 50.46
4 Shaine Casas 51.03 50.40
5 Aiden Hayes 52.10 51.24
6 Gabriel Jett 54.43 51.53
7 Luke Miller 51.93 51.84
8 Trenton Julian 51.90 51.10

Dark Horse: Teen phenom Kaii Winkler blasted a 52.51 at the TYR Pro Series in San Antonio in April, making him the 17th seed going into the competition. Though better known as a 50-100-200 freestyler, Winkler is young at only 18-years-old and has enormous potential in the 100 fly. If he decides to pursue the 100 fly over the 200 free throughout his NCAA career, he could become a major threat to make the 2028 Olympic team in the 100 fly–in 2024, Winkler could blast into the championship final, potentially alongside future NC State teammate Aiden Hayes, Luke Miller, and Arsenio Bustos.

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Boxall's Railing
1 month ago

Casas and Michael Andrew tie for first. Then commenters Andrew and Real Crocker have to buy an object each from Casas and MA (after all the “seller of the century” comments) 🙂

Serious predictions though…Dressel first in 49.7-49.9 range. Second up for grabs between Casas and Heilman in 50-mid.

Am aware of Rose and generally like Cal guys, but I feel like 2023 was an outlier/peak for him that he won’t replicate this year. SCY and LCM are basically different sports, but it’s meaningful that he absolutely got swallowed alive in the fly races at NCAAs in March. I just don’t see it for him this summer.

Beginner Swimmer at 25
1 month ago

😈😈😈🐶 Big Daddy Dre Dawg 🐶🍆🍆🍆 is about to show the WORLD 🌎 how to make a 49 Fly look easy 🗽🗽🗽

Last edited 1 month ago by Beginner Swimmer at 25
Swordfish
1 month ago

CD will be enrolling the team USA via 100 fly, probably 50 free and least likely 100 free, safe & easy prediction.

Viking Steve
1 month ago

Super weird that you wrote 3 long paragraphs hyping Anderw only for him not even to be predicted in the top 8 finishers.

If he is not in the top 8 because you don’t think he swims it… still super weird to have 3 paragraphs about someone you don’t think is going to swim it

Last edited 1 month ago by Viking Steve
Dakotamug
Reply to  Viking Steve
1 month ago

Swimswam knows MA content sells

Swimmer.thingz
Reply to  Dakotamug
1 month ago

Just like he does

saltie
1 month ago

Dressel will win. I’m having a really hard time picking between Rose and Heilman though. Rose stepped up when Caeleb was out and medaled at Worlds, he’s proven himself on the big stage. But at the same time, Hielman also made a Worlds team and almost medaled at age 16. It’s also just stupid to doubt Thomas Heilman. However, he is more of a 200 guy than the 100 like Rose.

Side note, would absolutely love to see Murphy grab the 2 spot. Not sure how much he cares about 100 fly but I think it’s possible

Swimdad
1 month ago

1. Dressel
2. Heilman
3.D. Rose.

Nearly everyone agrees MA won’t make the 100fly except the man himself.

Jalen T
1 month ago

If Dressel can comeback and win multiple golds in Paris like Phelps did with his dramas, then I’ll put him as a top 5 American male swimmers of all time list.

Swimdad
Reply to  Jalen T
1 month ago

He’s already in the top 5

Last edited 1 month ago by Swimdad
Jalen T
Reply to  Swimdad
1 month ago

LMFAO
He ain’t better than Phelps Spitz Lochte Crocker Piersol😅😅

Mr Piano
Reply to  Jalen T
1 month ago

You’re insane if you think he’s below Crocker. He won 3&4 individual gold in 2017 & 2019 worlds, and 3 at Tokyo, so he’s arguably already above Lochte.

HeGetsItDoneAgain
Reply to  Jalen T
1 month ago

Top 5 is MP, Spitz, Lochte, Biondi, Dressel already. Maybe Piersol instead of Lochte but that’s about it. He’s already top 5.

Dylan
1 month ago

No mention of Santo?

Admin
Reply to  Dylan
1 month ago

I’m not a lawyer, but my read of the rules is he’s not gonna swim.

53.20 in his last meet isn’t super hopeful either.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six with the Clay Center Tiger Sharks, a summer league team. At age 14 he began swimming club year-round with the Manhattan Marlins (Manhattan, KS), which took some convincing from his mother as he was very …

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